Twins Dave and George Sutherland leave a legacy of skill, style, and strength
The Annual Father’s Day Car Show in Old Town Warrenton has become a family tradition, drawing several thousand attendees to enjoy a wonderful day of food, music and, of course, classic and antique automobiles. This year’s event, held on June 18, had over 250 entries—with a 1941 Cadillac Limousine winning best in both show and category (1900 to 1959 American cars).
First exhibited last year, this car has been a labor of love for a very special duo, 81-year-old identical twins and Warrenton natives Dave and George Sutherland. “They always had a knack for fixing autos,” Sue Sutherland, Dave’s wife of 55 years, said. “That was a wonderful surprise,” she added of their win, a much-deserved honor after 18 years of restoring their limo to mint condition.
The rich history of the Sutherland twins extends beyond cars, though this passion has been a running theme in their fraternal bond and reputation as prolific mechanics and engineers. Growing up on LeBaron Farm in Warrenton, the brothers helped take care of Black Angus cattle brought from Scotland by their father, renowned for raising this breed of livestock and establishing herds in several western states.
Always traveling in style from their homeland of France, LeBaron owners Madame Coty and her husband Leon Cotnareanu would periodically visit the farm in their 1941 Cadillac Limousine. “Dave and George were just young boys, and they would watch the couple riding in that limo. So they decided one day they were going to get a car just like that, and I think they just never let go of that wish,” continued Sue. This wish had finally materialized years later when the brothers acquired their dream vehicle and ultimately created an idealized showpiece for others to appreciate and admire.
Lifelong family friends, Robert “Pooch” and Elwood Gray each noted: “Back then it was a different time; it was fun.” Each fondly recalled the purer pre-cyber days of interactive recreation and outdoor adventures with the twins. “We all had old cars, and we would always go out to the farm and work on them,” remembered Pooch. When not engrossed in their favorite hobby, the boys relished in sports, opportunistically using the farm as their personal playfield. “Football and baseball—that was as important as working on cars,” shared Sue. These diversions were welcome and well-deserved given the long days and laborious chores at LeBaron. The rigors of agriculture would eventually take their toll and push the brothers in another direction.
The twins enlisted in the Army in 1958 with the stipulation that they would not be separated, an option allowed to them under the Buddy Program. Keen on learning how to fix radios and direction-finding systems for aircraft, the brothers trained in electronics at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey during their three years of service. This specialty led to an overseas assignment, relocating the brothers to Echterdingen, Germany in 1959 for nearly two years. “Planes were brought to them from all over Europe; planes that could not be fixed at local airports. They were very good at what they did,” Sue proudly remarked.
The Sutherlands’ military education and experience provided technical expertise for their next vocation: microwave radio work for Chesapeake and Potomac (C&P) Telephone Company. After two years of working at the Leesburg office, the brothers temporarily parted ways. George accepted an engineering job at the Richmond branch of C&P designing mainframes and long-line equipment that would run between eastern cities. Meanwhile, Dave moved on to Aero Geo Astro Corporation in College Park, Maryland, working as a junior engineer to develop a radio that could withstand a rocket’s voyage into outer space. After a year and a half, Dave returned to his former job with C&P. Both men left the phone company after 38 years and took jobs together at VDOT in northern Virginia, maintaining the programming of traffic light timing.
Not one to settle for a single trade, Dave also had a home-based side business, Sutherland TV, repairing televisions and VCRs and installing satellite dishes for over 30 years. Steve, his youngest son, recalled: “He never turned anyone away, never charged much, and always made house calls. Many in the community came to know him this way, in addition to his local roots.” Mechanically gifted himself, George repaired electronic reading equipment for years for Talking Books for the Blind.
Both men retired at the age of 73. This stage marked another important chapter in their lives, as each brother would receive the same diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease just three years apart. This change brought the twins back to their roots and ushered in a refocus on home and family. Though George currently resides in an assisted living facility, he frequently visits Dave and Sue at their house in Warrenton. “We try to get him over here just to be around—to eat lunch, hang out on the deck, visit with their sisters Jane and Carolyn,” said Sue.
Despite their disease, the twins are still responsive to stimuli and still take pleasure in watching TV, looking at magazines, handling familiar objects, going for walks in the park, and playing with Dave’s cocker spaniel Chippy. But music has been an especially unifying pastime for the brothers. Dave and George always shared a love for bluegrass music. They would get together with others to play locally, and would frequently be seen strumming their guitars at home. In 2010, Dave’s oldest son, John, gifted the brothers with custom guitars made from actual tree wood from Scotchcroft, their family farm in Opal.
The twins clearly enjoy family and friends, and the feeling is observably mutual. Sue said, “I love them so much, and I want the best quality of life for both of them that can possibly be.” This new life entails meaningful moments with loved ones and opportunities to reignite boyhood passions.
With six children, eleven grandchildren, and a throng of faithful friends between them, the brothers never lack company or companionship. Even though communication is a challenge for them, Sue affirmed they always appreciate that human connection and the voices of family and friends. “Pooch calls Dave a couple times a week just to chitchat. He doesn’t get any feedback, but he does the talking, and that means a lot to Dave.”
This year’s car show also gave the brothers another chance to savor a combined tribute to fathers and classic cars. “Dad sat in that limousine for about an hour and a half, with the window rolled down,” Steve said. “He can’t really talk, but people would come up to him and he would smile. There was something special about that moment for them, and you could see it. One thing that I have always admired about my father is his humbleness, and the way he’s always treated people. He’s always cared about others and offered his help whenever he could.”
It seems everyone who knows the Sutherland brothers admires them, as each account of their lives is accompanied by smiles, laughter, and awe. Whether playing on a cattle ranch, working at a German airfield, or relaxing in a reconditioned Cadillac, the brothers have always thrown themselves into every pursuit and managed to balance a sense of duty with a desire for adventure. Like their prize-winning limo, they too are in a class of their own.